1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

Anonymous, "Don Juan" Morning Chronicle (26 July 1819).



The style as well as the versification of the new poem of Lord Byron, Don Juan, the origin of which has been referred to William Whistlecraft, is in fact borrowed from the Italian poets. Pulci is the author of the system of intermingling comic thoughts and adventures in grave narratives, without relaxing from the seriousness of his manner. Ariosto was an imitator of this style, but he owed his popularity probably to the preponderance of the pathetic or serious parts of his poem. Sir John Harrington, who published his translation of Ariosto, in eight-rhyme stanzas, towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth, attempted to transfer this species well, and he has had till the present day few imitators. There are among the works of Gay (whose genius perhaps, more than that of any other English poet, would have qualified him to give an idea of the graceful pleasantry of Ariosto), some pleasant lines, in the ottava rima, to Pope (on his completion of the translation of the Iliad). The following are some stanzas of Harrington's translation, and though not among the best, will give an idea of the tone of his jocularity. It is the account of Bradamante, who arrived as a knight, meets Brunello, from whom she wished to get the enchanted ring. — Canto 3, 4:—

Next day she happed BRUNELLO to espied;
She knew him straight — she found him at her Inn;
She grows to question with him by and by,
And he to lie doth by and by begin,
And she dissembles too, and doth deny
Her country, stocke and name and sex and kin:
BRUNELLO pleasantly doth talk and tipple,
Not knowing he did halt before a cripple.

Now when they almost broken hast their fast,
She marking more his fingers than his eyes,
When much good talk between them too had past,
The most thereof were false and forged lies,
Behold mine host came unto them in haste,
And to them news that made them sooner rise.
But here I mean to make a little pause,
Before I tell what was thereof the cause.

Though he that useth craft and simulation,
Doth seldom bend his acts to honest ends,
But rather (of an evil inclination)
His wit and skill to others' mischief bends;
Yet, sith in this our worldly habitation,
We do not always dwell among our friends,
Dissembling, doubtless, oftentimes may save
Men's lives, their fame and goods, and all they have.